Seminar on “Tourism in ASEAN: Potential, Challenges and Way Ahead”

The ASEAN Studies Centre of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute organised a public seminar on ‘Tourism in ASEAN: Potential, Challenges and Way Ahead’ on 19th March 2018.

Monday, 19 March 2018 – The ASEAN Studies Centre of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute organised a public seminar on ‘Tourism in ASEAN: Potential, Challenges and Way Ahead’ on 19th March 2018. It brought panellists from the private sector to share their perspectives on three aspects: ASEAN tourism sector and its challenges; ASEAN’s initiative to market the region as a ‘single tourist destination’; and ASEAN as a cruise destination.

From left to right: Ms Christina Siaw, Dr Sanchita Basu Das, Ms Elly Nurlaila Hutabarat, and Mr Paul Yong (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

Mr. Paul Yong of DBS Bank noted that travel and tourism industry accounted for around 12% of ASEAN’s GDP, which was higher than the global average of 10%. Of the total tourist arrivals, intra-ASEAN was the biggest source at 42%, followed by China at 17%. Apart from ASEAN’s natural attractions and cultural heritage sites, tourism friendly visa policies and emergence of low cost carriers have contributed to this growth. ASEAN’s open skies policy is also a positive facilitator. But infrastructure bottleneck is a crucial challenge to support further growth of the tourism sector. Other risks include – slowdown of the Chinese economy, weak RMB, regulatory and security risks and backlash against Chinese tourists.

Mr Paul Yong, CF of DBS Bank (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms. Elly Hutabarat, Deputy President of ASEAN Tourism Association, also touched upon the potential of the tourism sector in ASEAN. She highlighted the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) that sets an aspiration of developing ASEAN as a single tourist destination by 2025. The plan mentions increasing competitiveness by attracting investments, raising capability of human resource, introducing tourism products, implementing ASEAN Tourism Standards and improving connectivity. ASEAN is currently involved in several marketing activities to promote the tourism sector and introducing new ideas like sustainable tourism and halal tourism. The introduction of the ASEAN common visa to facilitate travel of non-ASEAN citizens within the region was also discussed. ASEAN tourism has not reached its full potential due to challenges such as travel restrictive policies, skills mismatch and lack of logistics and infrastructure.

Ms Elly Nurlaila Hutabarat, Deputy President of ASEAN Tourism Association (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms. Christina Siaw, CEO of Singapore Cruise Centre, highlighted the growing importance of cruise tourism in the world and the region. Within Asia-Pacific cruise passengers have grown from 678,000 in 2007 to 4.7 million in 2017, a CAGR of more than 21%. ASEAN countries have many natural advantages to develop cruise tourism in the region. These include conducive weather, 25,000 islands, long coastline, nearly 40 UNESCO heritage sites and attractive destinations within short sailing distance. But currently there are many challenges of infrastructure deficiency, inconsistent port policies and low awareness, to reap the potential benefits. To overcome some of these issues, ASEAN countries have recently adopted a Joint Declaration on Cruise Tourism, promising to accelerate development, improve policies and enhance efficiency in administration process.

Ms Christina Siaw, CEO of Singapore Cruise Centre Pte Ltd (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

The seminar was attended by around 40 individuals from government agencies, diplomatic corps, academics and businesses.

Around 40 people attended the seminar (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)